Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (ISSN 2330-5142) presents papers that cover all aspects of the management and conservation of inland, estuarine, and marine fisheries and wildlife. It aims to provide a forum where fisheries and wildlife managers can find innovative solutions to the problems facing our natural resources in the 21st century. The Journal welcomes manuscripts that cover scientific studies, case studies, and review articles on a wide range of topics of interest and use to fish and wildlife managers, with an emphasis on the southeastern United States.


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Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) contribute to recreational fisheries in 14 U.S. states, including Kansas. They are found in six major river basins in southern and eastern Kansas (Arkansas, Kansas, Marais des Cygnes, Missouri, Neosho, and Verdigris) during spring spawning migrations and are thought to persist in four of those (Kansas, Marais des Cygnes, Missouri, and Neosho) throughout the year. However, most data pertaining to paddlefish in Kansas exist in internal documents or institutional knowledge. Desire to best manage Kansas fisheries has resulted in a need to consolidate this information and develop a statewide paddlefish management plan. Recreational paddlefish snagging was first designated as a fishing season in Kansas in 1972 on a short stretch of the Neosho River below Chetopa Dam. Snagging seasons were initially unregulated but have since evolved to address various management considerations.

Increasingly, new innovative management approaches are being used in small ponds that contain largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) to increase the quality of largemouth bass fisheries. One approach is to stock additional forage fish. Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense) were stocked into two small Alabama ponds (1.9 and 5.3 ha) in 2007, 4 yrs after renovation and restocking with largemouth bass and bluegill (1:15 stocking ratio) to improve largemouth bass relative weight (Wr) and length distributions. Threadfin shad inhabited these two ponds for about 2.5 yrs before being eliminated by severe winter temperatures in January 2010. After threadfin shad became established, Wr increased for stock- and quality-length (203-380mm) largemouth bass, but not for preferred-length and larger (>380 mm) fish.

Age-0 fish sampling is an important tool for predicting recruitment success and year-class strength of cohorts in fish populations. In Puerto Rico, limited research has been conducted on age-0 fish sampling with no studies addressing reservoir systems. In this study, we compared the efficacy of passively-fished light traps and actively-fished push nets for sampling the limnetic age-0 fish community in a tropical reservoir. Diversity of catch between push nets and light traps were similar, although species composition of catches differed between gears (pseudo-F = 32.21, df =1,23, P < 0.001) and among seasons (pseudo-F = 4.29, df = 3,23, P < 0.006). Push-net catches were dominated by threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense), comprising 94.2% of total catch. Conversely, light traps collected primarily channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus; 76.8%), with threadfin shad comprising only 13.8% of the sample.

North Fork Hughes River, West Virginia, is a native muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) stream and is impounded by North Bend Lake, a 12.4-km long, 123-ha impoundment that serves as an important brood source for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Muskellunge movement was monitored from 26 March 2010 through 2 January 2014 to monitor seasonal movements and to verify muskellunge migration through the outlet structure of the dam. Twenty-four fish were collected using pulsed DC boat-mounted electrofishing equipment and surgically implanted with acoustic trans- mitters. Six submersible data loggers were stationed throughout the lake. Data logger data were downloaded monthly throughout the study, resulting in 1,256,046 detections of implanted fish. Seasonal movement of marked fish was consistent during the four years of the study. Most fish moved throughout the entire length of the lake, and seven implanted fish left the lake through the outlet structure of the dam.

Rapid growth of black bass (Micropterus spp.) tournaments in the 1960s and 1970s caused concern among fisheries managers and anglers about the impacts of tournament-caused mortality on bass populations. Tournament organizers voluntarily implemented live-release events in the early 1980s. As catch-and-release practices became more common, procedures to improve the survival of tournament-caught fish were developed and have evolved. The objectives of this paper are to review education and outreach efforts to improve survival of tournament-caught black bass, suggest research needs and opportunities to achieve greater survival, and show the relevance of high survival to contemporary black bass management. Since 1985, a succession of informational products describing those techniques have been developed and distributed to anglers.

Historical eradication efforts, increasing fishing pressure, and growing anthropogenic impacts have resulted in decreased abundance or extirpation of the alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) throughout much of its historic distribution. Current population status has prompted states to actively manage stocks; however, efforts are hindered by a lack of data necessary to make informed management decisions. To begin addressing these data needs, we investigated alligator gar population dynamics and exploitation in Choke Canyon Reservoir, Texas. A total of 754 fish (total length [TL] range, 678 to 2275mm) was collected with multifilament gill nets from 2008 through 2013; 656 individuals collected from 2011 through 2013 were tagged and released as part of a mark-recapture study to estimate abundance and exploitation. Alligator gar age ranged from 0 to 27 yrs.

In 2005, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission implemented a team approach to guide holistic management of Orange Lake, Florida (5100ha). In 2007, 2010, and 2013, we evaluated the lakewide composition of aquatic plant communities and quantified their habitat benefits for focal fish and wildlife taxa. We found that habitat conditions in Orange Lake varied with changes in water level and all three years exhibited an excess of shrub swamp habitat (400-481 ha) and a shortage of shallow marsh habitat (65-160 ha). Overall habitat value for the group of focal taxa was greatest in 2010, coinciding with the highest coverage of deep marsh and submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV). More than half of the lake was ranked as having low overall habitat value in 2013, coinciding with the highest coverage of floating marsh and lowest coverage of SAV and open water.

Gear catch efficiencies have a large effect on data collected to describe fish populations and communities used by managers to make informed decisions. We measured the retention rate of black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and sunfish (Lepomis spp.) from a seeding experiment composed of 10 haul seines pulled at three lakes. Approximately 50 individuals of each group were marked and placed into closed haul seines, and fish recovery rates were measured. Retention rates ranged between 0.34 and 0.94 for black crappie and 0.38 and 0.89 for sunfish. Akaike's Information Criterion was used to select between alternative generalized linear models of recapture probability using site-specific environmental and sampling measurements as covariates. Our top ranked model for black crappie incorporated heterogeneity in fish retention across lakes with different sample area sizes, while the best model for sunfish included covariates for lake, size of sample area, and sample effort.

Low-cost unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have recently gained increasing attention in natural resources management due to their versatility and demonstrated utility in collection of high-resolution, temporally-specific geospatial data. This study applied low-cost UAS to support the geospatial data needs of aquatic resources management projects in four Texas rivers. Specifically, a UAS was used to (1) map invasive salt cedar (multiple species in the genus Tamarix) that have degraded instream habitat conditions in the Pease River, (2) map instream meso-habitats and structural habitat features (e.g., boulders, woody debris) in the South Llano River as a baseline prior to watershed-scale habitat improvements, (3) map enduring pools in the Blanco River during drought conditions to guide smallmouth bass removal efforts, and (4) quantify river use by anglers in the Guadalupe River.

Flathead catfish (Pylodictus olivaris) populations were sampled in three northeastern Mississippi reservoirs (Aberdeen, Columbus, and Aliceville) along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to evaluate stock characteristics. Specifically, data were collected on relative abundance, growth, mortality, recruitment, and size structure. These samples were part of a statewide effort to document current population status in reservoirs and to develop management goals. Sampling was conducted in late summer (July-August) during 2011-2013 using low-frequency electrofishing. All fish 250 mm total length and greater were aged using pectoral spine sections. Relative abundance (fish km-1) was higher in Aliceville Lake (12.56 fish km-1) than in Aberdeen Lake (7.54 fish km-1) or Columbus Lake (7.37 fish km-1), but length-frequency distributions, growth and annual mortality rates, and recruitment variation of flathead catfish were similar among reservoirs.

Crappies (Pomoxis spp.) are popular sportfish, but can be difficult to manage due to erratic recruitment and variable growth. In this study, we document the population dynamics of a white crappie (P. annularis) population in a small impoundment characterized by low predator density and abundant populations of several forage species. White crappies (n=301) were collected by electrofishing in October 2012. Relative abundance as indexed by electrofishing catch per unit effort of crappie was high (103.3 fish h-1 ± 18.7 SD). A sub-sample was aged (n = 153) and growth was described by a von Bertalanffy growth curve as total length (TL) = 379.6 (1-e -0.341[age + 0.769]). Growth was considered medium to fast with crappie reaching 254 mm TL in 2.5 yrs. Mean TL of age-2 crappie was 231 mm TL, but lengths ranged from 85 to 365 mm TL.

In 1992, a 356-mm minimum length limit (MLL) was enacted on Kentucky Lake and a 381-mm MLL was enacted on Watts Bar Lake, two mainstem reservoirs on the Tennessee River, in an attempt to reduce exploitation and improve the size structure of the sauger (Sander canadensis) populations. The objectives of this study were to compare sauger population characteristics immediately following (1993-1994) and 15 years after (2008-2009) the regulations took effect, examine spatial and temporal patterns in growth, examine recruitment patterns in each reservoir using a recruitment variability index (RVI), and assess the current likelihood of overfishing. Saugers were collected with experimental gill nets in each reservoir and aged using otoliths. A Beverton-Holt yield-per-recruit model was used to simulate angler yields and estimate the likelihood of growth overfishing. Recruitment overfishing was assessed by examining spawning potential ratios under various MLL and exploitation rate scenarios.

Supplemental stocking of sport fish has been an important management tool used by fisheries management agencies, but published accounts of stocking success are infrequent. Both black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and white crappie (P. annularis) have been stocked throughout the southeastern United States with over one million stocked annually in Arkansas alone. Stocking contribution was determined for six impoundments that ranged in size from 58 to 503 ha. In October 2010 and 2011, crappies were marked with oxytetracycline hydrochloride and stocked at rates that ranged from 53 to 246 fish ha-1. Age-0 crappies were collected using trap nets each month for three months following the 2010 stocking but size selective gear bias precluded accurate short-term contribution estimates. Trap net collections in 2011 and 2012 produced no marked age-1 crappies in any impoundment.

Relatively few studies have been conducted for white bass (Morone chrysops) populations in large river impoundments. Our study focused on population characteristics of white bass in Kentucky Lake, a mainstem impoundment of the Tennessee River. A total of 994 fish were collected using electrofishing during April 2006 and 2007 to evaluate age, growth, and mortality. Kentucky Lake white bass exhibited relatively fast growth compared to previously studied populations. Females were already larger than males by age-1 and continued to grow faster than males; both genders were sexually mature by age-2 when complete recruitment to the fishery occurred. Mortality did not differ between males and females and the pooled annual mortality rate (A) was 45%-46% each year. Beverton-Holt equilibrium yield models were used to evaluate the potential for minimum-length limits (MLL; 254 mm [no MLL], 279 mm, 305 mm, and 305 mm) to increase yield and harvest potential in the population.

Rice and natural seeds are important foods for waterfowl in rice growing regions such as the Gulf Coast Prairies of Louisiana and Texas. We conducted a study from August-November 2010 and collected 2,250 soil cores in 50 farmed and 50 idle rice fields in the Louisiana Chenier Plain (CP) and Texas Mid-Coast (TMC) to estimate biomass of waste rice and natural seeds. Estimates are necessary to assess carrying capacity for waterfowl in this region by the Gulf Coast Joint Venture. Waste rice abundance was greatest in CP farmed fields that produced a second crop of rice (i.e., ratoon) and were not harvested in November (1,014.0 kg/ha; CV = 8.3%). Natural seed abundance was greatest in TMC fall disked idle rice fields in October (957.4 kg/ha; CV = 17.2%). Variation in rice and natural seed abundance in farmed and idled rice fields ranged from CV = 0.3%-97.9% in the CP and TMC, perhaps attributable to the variety of farming practices encountered.

Interest in hunting wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) continues to increase, and agencies are challenged with balancing hunter access and activity with management of sustainable turkey populations. Understanding turkey hunter behavior, particularly on public lands, would greatly assist agencies with achieving this balance. We used GPS to track the movements of wild turkey hunters during spring hunting seasons of 2012 and 2013. We used 151 hunter track logs on the 1440-ha southern tract of the Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, to better understand turkey hunter behavior and space use. On average, hunters hunted 6 hours each day, traveling 5.9 km during a hunt. However, on average hunters stayed within 0.3 km of roads and access trails and the mean daily maximum distance from a starting location (parking area) was 1.5 km.

The mottled duck (Anas fulvigula) naturally occurs in two populations: one in the coastal marsh of the western Gulf of Mexico and another in peninsular Florida. A third, introduced, population occurs on the southern Atlantic coast in South Carolina and Georgia. Most mottled ducks in Georgia occur on Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, McIntosh County. In 2006, we began banding mottled ducks in Georgia using airboats at night and collected banding and recovery data from 2006 through spring 2014. We used Program MARK to estimate survival rates, Seber recovery rates, and Brownie recovery rates. We captured and banded 232 mottled ducks and received 47 band recoveries. Our model weights suggested that survival and recovery rates were mostly constant across time and age and sex class.

Antler measurements are used to set harvest restrictions for male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and to evaluate response to management. Remotely-triggered trail cameras are popular research and management tools, but have not been used to estimate antler size or age. We developed methods to estimate antler measurements and age of male deer â?¥ 1 year old from photographs. We developed predictive equations for individual antler measurements using photographs of mounted deer heads, and evaluated five anatomical features for potential use as a known-sized scaling reference in field photos. Mean estimation error for individual antler characteristics of free-ranging deer ranged from 6.7% for tine length to 19.3% for length of non-typical points. Mean estimation error for gross Boone and Crockett antler score from a single photograph was â?¤ 5.9%, and was improved by using multiple angles.

Coyote (Canis latrans) depredation rates on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns are variable across the southeastern United States, perhaps due to varying dispersion of coyotes as related to social behavior and habitat preferences. To evaluate fawn predation risk related to coyote distribution, we studied home range patterns and habitat use of 15 female coyotes during the 2012-2013 fawning periods. Seasonal home range sizes varied but followed two general patterns. Small home range coyotes (SHR; likely breeding females) had a mean home range area of 7.4 km2 (CL = 5.4-9.5 km2), whereas large home range coyotes (LHR; transients) had a mean home range area of 47.1 km2 (CL = 27.5-66.8 km2). We measured consistency of space use as a gauge for predation risk by examining revisitation rates of core areas and quantified movements by calculating residence time along paths.

In Georgia, there are three geographically separated black bear (Ursus americanus) populations (North, Middle, and South). The middle population is the smallest and most isolated. Recent land purchases were made in part to conserve habitat for this population of bears. Our objectives were to determine if: 1) bear use of WMAs changes when the area is open or closed to hunting and 2) bear visitation rates to bear bait stations differ if roads are open to vehicular traffic. Both male and female bears used WMAs more during closed periods (males = 56.8% and females = 76.4%) than during open periods (males = 31.0% and females = 66.5%). Visitation rates to bear bait stations differed between closed roads (53.8%) versus open roads (23.2%). It is important that agencies managing public lands for black bears consider temporal and/or spatial regulation of human access to such areas, or parts thereof.

Mottled ducks (Anas fulvigula) on the western Gulf Coast have exhibited a steep population decline since the mid 1990s. Low rates of breeding incidence and nest success have been implicated in this decline, but duckling survival and the habitat needs of broods have not been previously investigated in this region. We fitted mottled duck ducklings and adult females with radio transmitters and tracked broods to estimate duckling survival and brood habitat selection on the upper Texas Gulf Coast. Duckling survival to 30 days was high (range among models 0.354-0.567) compared to other dabbling duck species. Estimated fecundity was low, (range among models 0.398-0.634) however, indicating that overall reproductive output is low. Within coastal marsh, broods selected home ranges with more water cover and less upland and fresh marsh landcover than was available in the study area.

Managing and restoring longleaf pine forests throughout the Southeast is a conservation priority. Prescribed fire is an integral part of these activities, as it is the primary means of controlling hardwood encroachment and maintaining native groundcover. Nest site and preflight brood ground- roost site selection of eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) has not been well studied in longleaf pine systems. Therefore, we determined habitat characteristics associated with wild turkey nests and ground-roosts in 2 longleaf pine forests in southwestern Georgia. We radio-tagged 45 female turkeys and evaluated habitat characteristics associated with 84 nests and 51 ground-roosts during the 2011-2013 nesting seasons. Nests were located farther from mature pine and mature pine-hardwood stands and closer to shrub/scrub habitats than expected.

The need to understand habitat requirements for bats is becoming more urgent as new risks pose unprecedented challenges to these unique mammals. We undertook a brief, intensive survey to investigate bat habitat use in and around the Apalachicola National Forest during May 2012. Making use of experienced volunteer biologists representing many agencies and organizations, we surveyed 31 sites during three nights of mist netting, capturing 245 bats of eight species. We used logistic regression and cluster analysis to evaluate habitat use and diet.

Although eastern elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) were extirpated from the eastern United States in the 19th century, they were successfully reintroduced in the North Carolina portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the early 2000s. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is evaluating the prospect of reintroducing the species in other locations in the state to augment recreational opportunities. As a first step in the process, we created a state-wide elk habitat suitability map. We used medium-scale data sets and a two-component approach to iden- tify areas of high biological value for elk and exclude from consideration areas where elk-human conflicts were more likely. Habitats in the state were categorized as 66% unsuitable, 16.7% low, 17% medium, and <1% high suitability for elk.

Land managers and researchers strive to understand factors influencing white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations and develop methods to improve habitat. Evaluating forage quality across variable habitat types and soil regions may assist land managers interested in improving habitat quality. We placed 570 plant sampling exclosures across nine primary habitat types in Louisiana and collected plant samples representing consumable forage from each exclosure during summer 2012. Each sample was dried and those with ≥ 10g of dry matter were analyzed for crude protein, total digestible nutrients, and trace minerals to assess forage quality within each major habitat type across Louisiana. We also assessed potential relationships between crude protein, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium concentrations of preferred white-tailed deer forages in each habitat with 10 year averages of body mass and antler size for 4.5+ year-old male deer harvested in each habitat type.